August 6, 2014

(Including Health Sciences)

SUBJECT:    File Sharing and Copyright Violations

Copyright agencies continue to target universities, including UC San Diego, and the end recipients are no longer primarily residential students, but non-residential students, and an ever growing number of staff and faculty. We have already received hundreds of copyright violation notices this year. Using peer-to-peer programs such as uTorrent, Popcorn Time, FrostWire, Transmission, Vuze, etc. to share copyrighted files opens you to serious risks, including:

* Lawsuits - Although most notices delivered to UC San Diego are straightforward "cease and desist" notices, each carries with it the potential for a lawsuit and the penalty of thousands of dollars. While we have not received a lawsuit in the last few years, over 100 UC San Diego students have been sued for copyright violations in the past, some for the first time they shared a copyrighted file. Even early out-of-court settlements cost thousands of dollars and involve a substantial time investment.

* Malware Infection - Hundreds of users each year unknowingly download infected files from peer-to-peer programs. Malware disguised as media and legitimate software is designed to steal your personal information, including usernames and passwords for bank accounts and credit card numbers. This is a multi-billion dollar business. * Identity Theft - In 2009, studies concluded that file sharing software carries significant risk of identity theft. After only a few hours of perusing the Gnutella network (FrostWire), researchers were able to find 45 birth certificates, 42 passports, and 208 tax returns. As we store more and more data on our computers, using these networks increases the risk of identity theft and can cost you thousands.

* University Sanctions - Students who receive a notice have their network devices temporarily blocked (often at inopportune times) and are required to attend a presentation on file sharing and copyright violations. Repeat violations for students result in referral to the Office of Student Conduct for sanctions imposed by their college Dean's office, which may include fines of $150 - $300. Sanctions for staff and faculty are determined by their department.

It is important to know the facts regarding the use of peer-to-peer programs. Common myths about file sharing and copyright law include:

MYTH: You can only get caught if you download the whole file.
FACT: With any torrenting program, you are simultaneously distributing pieces of a file while you are downloading it, and the act itself is what is illegal, not the amount shared.

MYTH: If you only download one file, you won't get a copyright violation.
FACT: Whether it's 1 file or 200, distributing content without authorization is illegal and can result in a copyright violation.

MYTH: You will not get sued for a copyright violation without first getting a "cease and desist" notice.
FACT: For over 100 UC San Diego students, a lawsuit was the first notice they received.

MYTH: You cannot get a copyright violation if you have purchased all the media files on your computer.
FACT: It is illegal to distribute any media without authorization from the copyright owner, even if you purchased it.

MYTH: If the material is not available in the U.S., it is not copyright protected.
FACT: U.S. law may apply when the uploading and downloading takes place in the U.S., even if the material isn't available in the U.S. Media companies frequently purchase the rights to material not yet available in the U.S.

MYTH: You will not get caught if you share files illegally on the wireless or VPN networks.
FACT: You can get caught on any of the UC San Diego networks, including UCSD-PROTECTED, ResNet, UCSD-Guest, Eduroam, and VPN.

MYTH: All streaming is legal. FACT: Some streaming websites (for example, Popcorn Time) are illegal. These sites download a BitTorrent client that runs in the background, allowing you to watch a movie or TV show on the website. Make sure your streaming sources are legal.

MYTH: If my friend uses my computer to download copyrighted material, they will be held responsible.
FACT: You are responsible for all activity tied to your UC San Diego username. For the latest information on copyright law, the University's policies regarding file sharing, the risks outlined above, and legal alternatives visit

Remember, if you are trying to get the latest songs, movies, anime, software, or other copyrighted content for free: beware. A copyright agency is probably watching. What is "free" at the time may end up costing you thousands of dollars. The Academic Computing & Media Services (ACMS) Help Desk maintains a list of free alternatives to popular software such as Adobe Photoshop and Final Cut Pro. See Legal Alternatives at

Be careful, know what's on your computer, and if you have questions or concerns regarding safe computing practices and university policies concerning illegal file sharing, feel free to contact the ACMS Help Desk ( We are here to help!

Jeff Henry
Academic Computing & Media Services
Campus DMCA Agent